Service Dog

People are often confused about the different groups of dogs out there, such as assistance dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs. To help assist people in understanding the difference between service dogs and other types of dogs, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has put together an informational article to help you learn the differences.

What is a Service Dog?

The only dogs that are protected by federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are service dogs, medical service dogs, and assistance dogs, which are names for the same thing. These are the only type of dogs that are federally protected enabling them to have public access privileges. No other category of dog has this privilege.

Service dogs are federally protected because they are very much like medical equipment – but with a heartbeat. They are allowed to go any place where the public is allowed to go, including on public transit and in grocery stores, movie theaters, malls, and hotels, etc. Service dogs are not considered pets in any way, shape, or form. They do not fall under any pet regulations.

If a hotel, for example, has a no pet policy, it does not apply to a service dog. Perhaps they do allow dogs, but there is a deposit for an extra cleaning fee that does not apply to a service dog.

Because a service dog is like medical equipment, you wouldn’t charge someone extra or deny someone services just because they came in with a cane, braces on their legs, or in a wheelchair, so you cannot deny them if they have a service dog.

What Does a Service Dog Do?

A medical service dog is trained to perform special tasks that mitigate the challenges of a disability for an individual. We deal with many people that have often been self-isolated at home for many years and/or have caregivers and are unable to enjoy major life functions. A medical service dog can change this and do things that not even a caregiver can do.

A service dog can tell the recipient if their sugar levels are too high or too low; they can tell them in advance if they are going to have a seizure, a nightmare, a flashback, a panic attack, etc.

Service dogs can do these things in advance due to their amazing sense of smell. Therefore, these people can begin to function in a more normal way. They depend on the dog to do these things. We train mobility dogs as well. Those dogs can pick up dropped items, open/close doors, turn on/off lights, and do a plethora of other activities.

Our Service Dogs go through no less than 1,500 hours of training over a year and a half to two and a half years. Training includes basic and advanced commands, desensitization, socialization, and public access training. They learn to ignore loud sounds, horns, sirens, and other dogs, etc.

What is an Emotional Support Dog?

Emotional support dogs are any dog. All dogs provide some level of emotional support. They are always happy to see us, want to come to cuddle with us when we are sad, etc. They are not trained to perform any specific tasks or skills to assist the owner.
Emotional support dogs, in most cases, do not have the level of training a proper service dog has and are not covered by ADA, except in a few circumstances that are limited to HUD housing. They are no longer allowed to fly commercial airlines as service dogs do.
An emotional support dog has no right to enter a public establishment any more than a pet dog does. If you are a pet-friendly business, of course, you are

welcome to accept ESAs and pets of all kinds in your establishment – just know that ESAs have no special legal permission to be there.

Why You Shouldn’t Allow All Dogs in Your Business

Unfortunately, there’s been a trend by businesses who are confused or intimidated by service dog policy that decide “just allowing all dogs” should be the answer. We’d like to discuss with you why this is not the best solution.

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, our recipients frequently report attacks on their dogs by untrained pets inside retail establishments and VA buildings. This not only does damage to our dogs both mentally and potentially physically, but it can “undo” their many hours of training by imprinting a fear response to other dogs. Please give careful consideration to your policies before allowing all pets.

Educating your staff is not as difficult as it seems, and if you need assistance, just give Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs a call. We’ll be happy to help with understanding service dog laws.

Donate to Guardian Angels Today!

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, your generous donations are used to help us assist veterans and others with disabilities to regain their independence and have a new normal! To make a donation, view our campaigns here.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has been recognized as the winner of the 2022 VETTY Award in the suicide prevention category, presented by the Academy of United States Veterans. Guardian Angels is a national 501(c)3nonprofit organization whose mission is to rescue, raise, train, and donate highly skilled medical service dogs to veterans, first responders and individuals to mitigate the challenges of both visible and invisible disabilities.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs’ recipients suffer from a myriad of disabilities, including PTS, military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injuries, diabetic and seizure disorders, mobility issues and more.

These disabilities can often lead to feelings of isolation and suicidal ideation for those affected. The highly trained service dogs that Guardian Angels provides to their recipients help to improve overall health and happiness, restore their sense of freedom and independence, and create a new normal full of possibilities.

Over the past 12 years, Guardian Angels has provided hundreds of service dogs to individuals across dozens of states in the U.S. To date, not a single Guardian Angels Medical Service Dog recipient has been lost to suicide.

“We are so proud of everyone connected with our organization,” says Carol Borden, Founder and CEO of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs. “From staff to volunteers and foster trainers, everyone involved has played a fundamental role in advancing our mission of making a difference in the lives of veterans and our other recipients. It’s an honor to have our work once again recognized by the Academy of United States Veterans.”

This marks the nonprofit’s third VETTY win and fifth consecutive year as a finalist for the award. The organization previously won the award in 2021 for outstanding efforts in veterans’ suicide prevention, and awarded the 2018 VETTY for outstanding efforts in Veterans’ Mental Health. The Academy of United States Veterans established the annual VETTY awards to recognize those that contribute to the well-being of the veteran community.

The 7th annual VETTY award gala was held on April 23rd at the M Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs’ staff member and Army veteran, Sean O’Rourke was in Las Vegas, along with one of our incredible Service Dogs to accept the award from Assal Ravandi, Founder & CEO of the Academy of United States Veterans.

As he accepted the award on behalf of Guardian Angels O’Rourke said, “Let’s ensure the focus remains on all our veterans and helping them find healing and that beautiful new normal through extraordinary dogs. Thank you so very much for recognizing our labor of love”.

To learn more about how Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs works to prevent suicide among veterans and others affected by disabilities, visit

About Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs

 Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Williston, Florida and has grown into a nation-wide medical service dog organization. The organization rescues, raises, trains and then donates individually trained medical service dogs to veterans, first responders and others who suffer from disabilities including PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, diabetic and seizure disorders, mobility issues and more. Since their inception in 2010, Guardian Angels has donated and paired hundreds of individually trained medical service dogs with those in need. For more information, visit:



With the summer season upon us, it’s time to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine. While the summer weather is great for outdoor activities like swimming or relaxing in the backyard, the heat can be dangerous for your pet or medical service dog. At Guardian Angels, we have put together some tips to keep your dog safe and comfortable this summer.


Since March of 2021, Kensi Nicholson has served the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs’ team as an apprentice. (more…)

Sean served his community for years as a police captain. While on duty, Sean received a call to respond to a local convenience store. There, he fought with a robbery suspect and was severely injured. Many surgeries and months of rehabilitation were necessary to help repair the damage from Sean’s broken back, traumatic brain injury, and permanent memory loss. (more…)

While Michael was deployed in Afghanistan, his base was hit by rockets, which led to him suffering a shattered leg and jaw along with a traumatic brain injury. (more…)

Today, we see help wanted signs everywhere. Some businesses have even closed their doors because they can’t get enough help. Fortunately, Guardian Angels Medical Services Dogs has maintained very faithful, reliable employees. Despite the challenges of the past couple of years, we needed to hire more great people because of our continued growth. (more…)

Carol Borden-CEO

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